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Training & Education

Workforce development

By Lauren Duensing

Siemens’ LEAP initiative prepares students for CNC machining careers

May 2017 - Employees who are problem solvers and critical thinkers—skills that are taught in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula—and who might grow into leaders are difficult to find. Brian Hamilton, CNC education manager for Siemens Industry Inc., Elk Grove Village, Illinois, says STEM jobs “are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs.” 

Metalworking companies want workers “who are more than basic machine operators for basic parts cutting, but the single biggest challenge is the lack of qualified, skilled labor,” Hamilton continues. Several factors contribute to the shortage, “including the lack of technical trade training tracks in high schools. The disappearance of shop class has robbed American manufacturing of the skilled and dedicated labor pool it enjoyed for a century following the industrial revolution.” 

In addition, increasing amounts of automation “seemed to remove the need for a skilled labor force in the modern factory, yet this was and is a myth,” he says, because the need for skilled labor “remains quite high in all industries.”

Apprenticeship model

Manufacturing has evolved, and people seeking a career working with their hands need to adopt new tools to succeed. That’s where a close collaboration between industry which develops those tools, and academia, which teaches how to use them, “becomes vital to the continuation of a solid supply of qualified workers,” Hamilton says. 

In Europe, particularly in Germany, “the centuries-old apprentice program has been given a new look.” Young people who show an inclination or aptitude for working with their hands—whether in design, programming, setup, machine operation, toolmaking and maintenance—are given a chance to study, apprentice and qualify to begin a manufacturing career.

Siemens has launched LEAP (Lifelong Educational Advantage Program), a workforce development initiative that is designed to give high school and technical school graduates a “basic-to-advanced machine tool knowledge” that will prepare them for careers as CNC machinists, according to Hamilton. 

Through LEAP, Siemens is providing students and educators with Sinutrain software that turns any PC screen into an exact representation of the Sinumerik Operate graphical user interface. Students  are taught how to operate the Sinumerik 828D Job Shop Control and soon become comfortable using the higher level Sinumerik 840D sl CNC.

Students can complete the entire curriculum, including classroom and hands-on training models. Upon successful completion of each level, students receive Siemens LEAP certifications. Initial coursework covers “turning and milling operations, from the most basic machine tool used for mold and die work to the highly complex, 5-axis machining centers found in automotive, aerospace, medical and other facilities,” says Hamilton. Working with lathes and mills to produce parts and execute programs gives students a profound sense of achievement as their concepts become reality, he adds.

Simulation is key

As participants progress, they will comprehend the connections between advanced machinery and CAD/CAM design and programming software. “Because of lean manufacturing and a need to cut costs from every step of the production process, simulation has risen to new heights in all sectors of metalworking,” Hamilton says. “When a designed part can be math-modeled and virtually produced, prior to actual manufacturing, all the possible pitfalls can be spotted before expensive raw materials, labor and machine run time get involved.”

Additionally, precise simulation “can avoid bottlenecks and unnecessary machine complications, plus allow more accurate estimating of machine time and labor costs,” he says.

Machine operators must analyze processes quickly, competently and accurately. “Hands on is still the only way to learn many of the necessary practical skills of toolmaking, die work, setup, materials handling and the other aspects of metals manufacturing,” he continues.

Schools that want to enroll in the Siemens Cooperates with Education (SCE) program must let Siemens perform an onsite assessment to ensure the turning, milling and other machine function tracks in LEAP are “the best solution” for each institution, Hamilton says. Upon approval, Siemens installs the SinuTrain software training program package and establishes a schedule for instructor training and certification. Support for the training coursework is provided as needed.

“The Siemens basic-to-advanced course curricula are designed to help schools achieve preset, defined goals with their program,” Hamilton says. FFJ

Sources

  • Siemens Industry Inc.
    Elk Grove Village, Illinois
    phone: 800/879-8079
    www.siemens.com
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